Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter on quarterback Derek Carr: “He hasn’t skipped a beat.” Ricardo Cano / The Collegian
Fresno State held its first two-a-day practice Wednesday – and saw the welcomed return of Derek Carr.
Carr missed Monday and Tuesday’s (the first time the Bulldogs practiced in full gear) practices to be with his wife, Heather, for the birth of their first son, who was born on Monday.
“I thank the coaches so much for understanding what’s important,” Carr said. “I had to be there for my son and my wife to fully recover and get ready. It was definitely life changing, it’s nothing that you see in a movie; nothing anyone tells ever prepares you.
“When I got here I felt so welcomed,” Carr said of his return to practice on Wednesday. “Everybody gave me hugs and congratulations and all that, we have a pretty special thing going on around here.”
The Bulldogs practiced in full pads Wednesday morning and in shells (shoulder pads and helmets) during the afternoon session.
Carr practiced during Wednesday’s morning session, but did not participate in the afternoon practice due to the NCAA’s acclimatization rules.
The offense saw a surge in production Wednesday morning. Carr went 5 of 6 in the first 7-on-7 drill of the morning and went 8 of 9 in the team’s red zone drill.
Said Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter on Carr’s return: “He didn’t skip a beat.”
Junior Brian Burrell took most of the first team offensive snaps in Carr’s absence. Burrell, who enrolled at Fresno State from Bakersfield College this spring, has two years of eligibility remaining.
A backup quarterback has yet to be established (the team will hold its eighth of 28 fall camp practices on Thursday), though Burrell seems to be inching slightly ahead of redshirt freshman Myles Carr and true freshman Zack Greenlee.
“I think Brian is starting to make some strides,” DeRuyter said after Wednesday’s afternoon session. “He’s got a good feel for things. He’s still learning, but he’s probably a slight step ahead of the rest of them. It’s still open. Nothing’s been set just yet.
“I’m glad we’ve got three more weeks of practice before Rutgers, but I’m really pleased with the type of shape our guys showed up in,” DeRuyter said. “We’ve come to work every single day and had really productive practices, so I like where we’re at.”
Offensive line depth a work in progress
The plan, offensive coordinator Dave Schramm said, is proceeding on schedule.
Six days into fall camp, and two practices in full pads, have produced a small sample size of where the offensive line is and where it plans to be for the season opener against Rutgers on Aug. 29.
The Bulldogs’ offense has one more day of playbook installation before it can fully unfold its plan to mix and match and rotate its offensive linemen, left and right and from the interior to the exterior tackle spots to see which combination is most lethal and most apt at protecting Carr in the pocket.
“It’s still a work in progress,” Schramm said Wednesday afternoon. “We’re evaluating those guys. They know it takes some time, especially in practices like these when we’re not in full pads. It’s kind of hard to evaluate those guys.”
Fresno State rotated its offensive line last season, moving graduated senior Richard Helepiko from center to right guard and bringing in Lars Bramer to deliver the snaps. The move “enabled us to get large on the field and have our best five offensive linemen,” left tackle Austin Wentworth said.
Moving around the offensive line is “going to be big this year,” said Wentworth, who played both tackle spots last season after playing right tackle and both guard spots his sophomore year. “Guys are going to have to switch positions, but they’re going to be able to do it and we’re going to have a great team.”
Fresno City College transfer James Funk practiced with the second-team unit on Wednesday in place of Mike Saenz, who shifted to guard.
Fresno State will continue to rotate its offensive line heading into the first game of the season.
“We’re mixing guys around,” Schramm said. “We’ve got to give Mike a chance to play some guard to see if he can help us there. When that happens, we throw Jimmy in there at center. He’s done a good job for us. We just have to keep evaluating those guys.
The one thing the Bulldogs are seeing in their plan is progress.
“Bo Bonnheim has done a really solid job to this point,” Schramm said. “Lars Bramer has done a nice job. James Laeau has had a good camp so far. So we’ve had a bunch of those guys kind of embrace the competition. It’s a work in progress.”